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Stanford Research Could Improve Counseling on Crisis Help Lines

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Texting a counselor for help.

As more people text rather than call crisis hotlines, Stanford University computer scientists are developing new techniques to discover the counseling strategies that seem to work most effectively.

Credit: TommL/Getty Images

Researchers at Stanford University analyzed 660,000 text messages from 15,000 crisis counseling sessions, identifying techniques associated with successful sessions.

The researchers say the findings could be used to train counselors to respond most effectively when a person in the midst of a crisis reaches out for help.

As part of the study, the researchers developed new methods of natural-language analysis to determine how the words and phrases counselors used influenced whether distressed texters reported feeling better after the conversation. They focused on contrasting the language used by counselors who are very successful at getting texters to report feeling better with the language of those counselors who were generally less successful.

The researchers found all counseling conversation followed five stages: introduction, problem setting, problem exploration, problem solving, and wrap-up. By analyzing and comparing how the most successful and least successful counselors progress through the stages, the researchers found the more successful counselors got to the heart of the issue and spent more of the conversation dealing with the problem, while the less successful counselors took more time to get to know the problem, according to Stanford graduate student Tim Althoff.

From Stanford News
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Abstracts Copyright © 2016 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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